The government is not publishing the NHS transition risk register to 'avoid political embarrassment', says Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.
Last week, the government took a highly unusual step in vetoing the publication of the transition risk register on their controversial changes to the NHS.
19 months ago, John Healey MP, put in a freedom of information request to the Department of Health so that the potential risks could be put into the public domain.
Despite repeated rulings of the Information Commissioner and subsequently the First-Tier Tribunal, the government has overridden them in a step back towards secrecy and closed government.
It is also a major change of policy on publication of risk registers. The previous Labour Government, under similar circumstances, released the risk register on the third Heathrow runway after an order from the Information Commissioner.
The judgement of the Tribunal is highly significant. It makes clear the government's upheaval of the NHS were introduced in an exceptional way. There was no indication prior to the white paper that such wide-ranging reforms were being considered. The white paper was published without prior consultation. It was published within a very short period after the coalition government came into power and was unexpected.
The Tribunal remark that the consultation took place over a very short period considering the extent of the proposed reforms. Even more significantly the government decided to press ahead with some of the policies even before laying a bill before Parliament.
The Tribunal point out that the whole process had to be paused because of the general alarm at what was happening. The public interest in understanding the risks involved in such wide-ranging reforms of the NHS would have been high, if not exceptional in this case.
The Tribunal concluded that risk registers would have provided the public with a far better understanding of the risks to a national institution which millions depended on.
Unfortunately in a breathtaking display of arrogance, the government has cast this aside. It's not hard to see why! The Tory led coalition had a huge amount of warning from people in the NHS, echoed by officials in private, about the impact of their very misguided changes. The reason for the register not being published is very simple: it was to avoid political embarrassment.
Despite inheriting the NHS in a very good condition with waiting lists dramatically reduced and a huge investment in new hospitals, the Coalition was hell-bent on a destructive change.
The argument for publication of the risk register when Parliament was considering this legislation was overwhelming. In vetoing its publication, the government are displaying the worst signs of executive power and indifference to the public interest.